SFD: Inside the archives (rumors and sounds)

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Reply to the Mearsheimer-Walt “Working Paper”
by Alan M. Dershowitz (April 2006)

The Kennedy School of Government has posted my detailed response to the working paper on the Israel lobby by its Academic Dean and Professor Stephen Walt and University of Chicago Professor John Mearsheimer. I believe that my response devastates their paper by proving that it is a recycling of discredited trash that appears daily on neo-Nazi and radical Islamic hate sites.

I demonstrate that quotes are deliberately wrenched out of context to make the writers appear to be saying exactly the opposite of what they actually said; important facts are misstated, distorted and omitted, all against Israel and the American Jewish community; embarrassingly weak logic is used in an effort to demonstrate a conspiratorial view of history in which a small number of American Jews and their compliant Christian dupes act against the interests of their own country and in the interests of Israel. In one of their most bizarre allegations, Walt and Mearsheimer claim that supporters of Israel do “not want an open debate on issues involving Israel.” Yet it is they who refuse to debate these issues. Mearsheimer cancelled a scheduled debate with me on the BBC and has repeatedly refused other invitations to debate his demonstrably false contentions. To date Walt has also not been willing to accept my challenge to debate him at the Kennedy School.

In light of the numerous and obvious errors in their paper, and in light of their concession that “none of the evidence represents original documentation or is derived from independent interviews,” I ask the question of why these prominent professors would have chosen to publish a paper that does not meet their usual scholarly standards. This is an especially important question given the obvious risk that recycling these discredited but explosive charges under the imprimatur of prominent authors and their universities would be seized on by bigots to promote their anti-Semitic agendas. As so-called “realists” these professors must have understood that their false and discredited charges would be featured, as they have been, on neo-Nazi and extremist websites and even by terrorist organizations.

As an advocate of free speech and an opponent of censorship based on political correctness, I welcome a serious, balanced, objective study of the influences of lobbies — including Israeli lobbies — on American foreign policy. I also welcome reasoned, contextual and comparative criticism of Israeli policies and actions. Let the marketplace of ideas remain open to all. But, as I show, this study is so filled with distortions, so empty of originality or new evidence, so tendentious in its tone, so lacking in nuance and balance, so unscholarly in its approach, so riddled with obvious factual errors that could easily have been checked (but obviously were not), and so dependent on biased, extremist and anti-American sources, as to raise the question of motive: what would motivate two well recognized academics to depart so grossly from their usual standards of academic writing and research in order to produce a “study paper” that contributes so little to the existing scholarship while being so susceptible to misuse?

I renew my challenge to debate these issues and will make myself available for debate or discussion of the Mearsheimer-Walt paper and my response. My response is available on the Kennedy School of Government site:
http://www.ksg.harvard.edu/research/working_papers/dershowitzreply.pdf

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